Cold War: History, Causes and theories, and Consequences
When did it occur? Is it still prevalent?
It started at the end of the Second World War and continued till the end of 1991 when the USSR broke apart and dissolved into the commonwealth of independent states and involved massive competition between the two prevailing superpowers of the time, in terms of politics, economics, and ideologies for the dominance of the world and influence. (How did the cold war start and end, 2013). The rivalry extended from differences in support in conflicts occurring through the world to differences over economy and trade to competition in the sports and battlefield as well as telecommunication arena, in arts and music It also led to suspicion and distrust as well as spying attempts and espionage. It resulted in axes of influence with some parts of the world under American influence and others under Soviet influence.
The first indication of the beginning of the Cold War was the speech by British PM Winston Churchill where he pointed to the fall of the iron curtain across Eastern Europe and increasing Soviet and Moscow influence. 5 March 1946. The signs of this happening was prevalent in the meeting in 1943 between the three major allied powers over the fate of Poland, with the US and UK wanting the Poles to determine their own fate while the Russian side wanted Poland to follow a pro-Soviet line. Poland was under German occupation and there were two factions that were looking to seek power, one of which was communist inclined, the other aimed for self-determination. The differences in viewpoint over the fate of Poland were the starting trigger for subsequent building up of the gap. In addition, events such as the refusal of Stalin to join the united nations, Stalin’s frustration with the US and UK over perceived delay of D-Day
It was quite a sudden transition from the position of triumphant friendship which was the result of the successful Second World War against Germany where the Allies had triumphed over Hitler’s forces (Causes of the world war, n.d.)
As in the words of Donette Murray,
The common concerns that had united the former allies (namely the fight against fascism and Nazi Germany) disappeared leaving only two radically different political, social, economic and ideological systems. ( Causes of the world war, n.d.)
Donette Murray, To What Extent was the Cold War a Struggle between Irreconcilable Ideologies? (1999)
Many theories exist on the probable causes of the cold war. Many of the projected reasons include such things as fears of Soviet expansionist policy, Western Aggression, Russian security concerns and European domination, Stalin’s influence, a consequence of the aftermath of the division of Europe following World War II, arising as a result of ideological differences and values between the former Allies in pursuing global goals. (Roberts, 2011). Historians from across both sides differ in what they feel as the causes or originators of the Cold War divide. The orthodox view, which was the earliest prevailing view (held forth in the 1050’s and much of the 1960’s) and was heavily biased towards American interests solely laid the blame for the cold war on Russia alone and its aggressive policies influenced by imperialism/revolutionary zeal in Eastern Europe and the American response was in the compulsion to this supposed provocation. (Bastion, n.d.) This view changed towards the end of the 60s’ as the US policies in the Vietnam war, lead many historians to reconsider the views about the US-Russian attitude towards creation of the cold war. The Revisionists put more blame on the US than Russia for not allowing the breakup of the Alliance to take place without concomitant negative side effects. They attributed the Russian behavior in Eastern Europe as a natural outcome of protecting their own economic and security interests and in response to what they felt was aggressive behavior. These experts saw rather an American imperialist action in operation, powered by its capitalist and greedy policies centered on creating its own sphere of influence in Europe, leading from Western Europe onwards and doing things towards this end.(Bastion, n.d.) The third set of opinions, expressed by the post revisionists, tried to harmonize both the above views as extreme and created a picture of a cold war which could have been avoidable and was basically generated by the distrust between the two superpowers. They held both sides responsible for pursuing their own interests without consideration for others’(Bastion, n.d.) (Gwinn, 2009)
Some Russian historians expressed that the soviet expansionist attitude in the establishment of the the cold war was directed by its natural imperialist designs in creating a zone of influence and an attitude of creating revolutions, rather than fear or objection towards the West, which they say that Stalin never had. (Roberts, 2011) Roberts himself says that the well intentions of Russia towards peaceful coexistence and cooperation with the the western world, though genuine, was under the stress of opposing forces led by the Russian revolutionary ideological zeal towards implementation of its goal of its kind of world peace, which were influenced by its own security interests. (Roberts, 2011) This, in turn, may have contributed to the exacerbation of the perceived cold war.
The perspectives changed in the late 1980’s with the increased globalization, breaking down of global barriers and this affected how the Cold War was perceived.
Even now, conflicts exist as to the exact cause and playing out of the cold war and what were the exact events of the cold war. Questions still remain over the exact role of Stalin in the development of the cold war: Was he solely responsible for the cold war, or was it an inevitable consequence of the developments of the post-world war II or were it the Americans who misunderstood Stalin? Stalin has polarised many historians deeply. Some blame Stalin, while others blame Truman. What is clear was that the abandonment of the Soviet principles and ideology in the 1990s initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, led to the rapid end of the cold war.
Anzasa.arts.usyd.edu.au,. (n.d.). Origins of the Cold War: Historiography. Retrieved 18 June 2014, from http://www.anzasa.arts.usyd.edu.au/ahas/cworigins_historiography.html
Gwinn, I. (2009). Towards a critical historiography of orthodox-revisionist debates on the origins of the cold war: between disciplinary power and u.s. national identity. etheses.bham.ac.uk. Retrieved 18 June 2014, from http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/426/1/Gwinn09MPhil_A1b.pdf
Johndclare.net,. (n.d.). Causes of the Cold War. Retrieved 18 June 2014, from http://www.johndclare.net/cold_war3.htm
Murray, D. (1999). To what extent was the Cold War a struggle between irreconcilable ideologies?.Exam Essays In 20Th Century World History, 77.
Shmoop,. (n.d.). Causes of the Cold War Summary & Analysis. Retrieved 18 June 2014, from http://www.shmoop.com/causes-of-cold-war/summary.html
Today I Found Out,. (2013). How Did the Cold War Start and End?. Retrieved 18 June 2014, from http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/11/cold-war-start-end/